The iconic photo “A Great Day in Harlem” caught 57 prominent jazz musicians posing in front of a brownstone in 1958. There’s a lot going on in the picture — Dizzy Gillespie is sticking his tongue out at Roy Eldridge; Count Basie is slouching on a curb next to a row of children; a cigarette is hanging from Charles Mingus’s grimacing lips. But when musician Brendan Burns looks at the photo, he’s more taken with its effect as a whole. He sees a symbol of a thriving, communal music scene.
“This is what jazz was,” says Burns, 36, as he looks over the image on his laptop screen. “They changed the face of jazz due to each other’s inspirations and challenges. It’s a beautiful thing to see these people together.”